From the Alex Tribune, May 5, 1935: Alex has one of the strongest banks in Grady County. Organization of First National Bank with capital of $25,000 and a surplus of like amount is the only bank in Grady County with a surplus equal to its capital and one of a very few in the state.
As noted in Christine Peters' book, Alex, A Brief History of the School, Class Members and Graduates; The People of Alex: Past and Present, early Alex resident FD Laws provided some of the information about the bank to Faye Hess. The additional history was also taken from Peters' book.
Clickable keywords for this article: First State Bank of Alex, WV Alexander, First National Bank of Alex, first bank robbery, Alex Chitwood, Grady Harris, first water and sewer services, second bank robbery, third bank robbery, sale of First National Bank, First National Bank of Chickasha
The First State Bank of Alex was incorporated as the First Bank of Alex on October 29, 1906. WV "Red" Alexander was the president. AJ "Alex" Garner was designated Vice-President and Richard Rudisell was Secretary/Treasurer. The bank's capital at incorporation was $10,000. Its primary stockholder was BV Cummins with other stockholders including EJ Kelly, Richard Rudisell, WV Alexander, AJ Garner, John Ireton, JD Tandy and CM Fecheimer.
On March 7, 1911, CB Clark of Chickasha, OK, (formerly of Bradley, OK) purchased the First State Bank, which was liquidated on May 15, 1912 and made a part of the First National Bank of Alex.
Shown above, the First State Bank of Alex was located on the north side of Broadway Street, just east of the intersection of Main and Broadway. Its location was roughly the same as the old Stuckey home on Broadway, across the street and to the north east of what is now Callie's Shabby Chic. Shown above right is a First State Bank check written in 1913.
The First National Bank was organized April 17, 1912 by CE Costello, LL Laws and RK Wooten with a board of directors including those men as well as Jesse Moore, RL Cruse, MC Holder and JA Corzine, who was elected president. FD Laws said that his brother, LL Laws, bought the stock in the bank from VG Jahn. After Corzine died in 1918, RL Cruse was made president, Mr. Laws was elected vice-president and EV Wasson, cashier.
On April 1, 1920, bandits held up the First National Bank of Alex and escaped with $3,000. The suspects were apprehended in Bradley and the money returned in less than an hour. LL Laws and bank custodians were locked in the vault. The robbery was first thought to be an April Fool's joke. Alex Chitwood entered the bank shortly after the robbery, saw the open bank drawer, discovered the occupants in the vault and was unable to free them, so he ran for help. Mrs. WA Bond was asked by the telephone operator to check to see why bank employees were not answering the phone. Chitwood explained that the bank had been robbed but no one believed him. When Chitwood finally returned with help, Laws had removed the screws from the door with the help of a flashlight and a screwdriver kept in the vault. On April 16, 1920, two suspects were charged in the bank robbery and, on June 4, 1920, one of the suspects was given a five year sentence after he admitted to the robbery.
Grady D. Harris, a former bank cashier, was made bank bookkeeper on April 30, 1920 and, on July 6, 1920, James William Ramsey was chosen as a bank director, replacing Wasson, who had resigned. At a January 1921 meeting, Cruse was reelected president; Laws, vice president; Grady D. Harris, cashier; and Lillian Harper, bank assistant. On August 18, 1922, Harris purchased the bank interests held by RL Cruse and was made a director, retaining his place as cashier. JW Ramsey then succeeded Cruse as president. The bank purchased a new electric posting machine in November 1922. In May 1923, Harris and FD Laws purchased LL Laws' interests in the bank and FD Laws became the assistant cashier and director. RB Holder was also made a director. Beginning January 10, 1927, the bank building was remodeled at the same location it had occupied since 1912, with repairs costing $7,000. Water and sewer service were put into operation in Alex on September 23, 1927 with the bank being the first customer connected.
The Alex First National bank was robbed on January 28, 1930 and $2,166.75 was taken. Three men in a Ford sedan drove up at noon in front of the bank. Two entered while the third remained in the vehicle. Grady Harris and Ethel Lawson were the only bank officials in the building. They heard "Stick 'em up!" and a six- shooter was put in their faces. The robbers threatened the Harris and Lawson and told them to lie on the floor. Lawson was then ordered to open the teller's cage and the safe and the bandit removed the money there, putting it in a bag that a he removed from the bib of his overalls. Unaware of the robbery, customers came into the bank and were herded with the officials into the vault. The vault failed to lock and the bandit took Harris out, ordered him to get his hat, go out the door of the bank, get in the back seat of the car and act as if nothing was happening.
Miss Hattie Jackson lived in an apartment above the bank. She became suspicious because of the loud talking and cursing and went to the adjoining telephone office, also above the bank. Misses Jackson and White watched Harris get into the car that soon left the bank.
The alarm was quickly spread. Police Officers OB Klepper, Frank Williams and Emmett Drone (a visiting Oklahoma City policeman) were parked across the street from the bank. They immediately gave chase and shot at the tires of the robbers' vehicle. The bandits had warned Harris he would be killed if they were followed so Harris jumped out of the car window as they sped along. The robbers were either glad to be rid of their hostage or shocked at his abrupt departure and went on without him. Harris made himself known to the following posse before they shot at him. He had only been bruised from the plunge out of the car and joined the pursuit of the bandits. One robber left the car and the other two turned toward Ninnekah. One-half mile north and one mile east on a temporary bridge over a tributary of the Little Washita River, the car either caught fire or was set on fire. The bandits fled on foot but were captured in Oklahoma City the following day.
The third Alex bank robbery occurred at 9:30 am on March 4, 1932. The robbers ordered Grady Harris and FD Laws to lie on the floor. SL Neill and RW McClintock were also in the bank. The bandits picked up the cash and ushered the men into the vault. Again, the door would not lock and the bandits ran out the front door of the bank. Laws grabbed the gun hidden in the vault, ran after the robbers and opened fire. Neill followed with a .45 automatic and McClintock with a high-powered rifle. The three pursued the robbers down the street, firing as the getaway car fled north of Alex. Others followed the car one and a half miles north before losing sight of it. On a tip received short time later, several men drove south of Alex to the Charlie White house and surrounded it. The robbers' car was parked on the west side of the house, easily recognized by the bullet holes inflicted earlier. The posse entered the house and located a trap door to the attic. The bandits were ordered to toss down their guns and come out. This they did, and the money, $1,600, was recovered. Since the White family was not at home, they missed the excitement.
Grady Harris was made president of the First National Bank in 1942. Sometime after his retirement, the bank, purchased from the Harris heirs about 1994, was made a branch of the First National Bank of Chickasha. It was managed first by Regina Evans, followed by Janette Rogers. Other employees of the Alex Branch have included Bobbie Drummond, Nelda Freeny, Rene Johnson and Holly Otey.
On November 30, 1999, Cliff Minton told Christine Peters that long time Alex resident Dave Timberlake mentioned that he worked with Grady Harris on the Railroad when they were putting the tracks through Alex. Grady said he was capable of being a banker, and a few weeks later he was working in the bank and living over it.